What do they come for?
Well, if you are a Ritchie by birth you come for beachside holidays and to play golf on one of the island's many courses. Others spend their time out on the hills, walking and climbing, and these days the range of possible activities is even wider. However, we were visiting during winter so we spent our time exploring the island by car. A couple of hours is all it takes to drive around it. So, that is exactly what this post is about, though there is so much to see that we are spreading our journey over two posts and taking the east and west sides of the island separately.
We will start our trip at Lamlash, a third of the way up the eastern coast of the island and looking across to the Firth of Clyde. We will return to Kildonan, south of Lamlash, at the end of this post. Lamlash is where we were staying, in the excellent Glenisle Hotel. This comfortable privately owned small hotel serves delicious locally produced food.
If you stand outside the hotel, you get a wonderful view of the Firth of Clyde and Holy Isle, an island dedicated to world peace and visited by people of all faiths and none. Indeed, there is even a Buddhist monastery on Holy Isle. We saw Holy Isle in all weathers and at all times of day. Here it is shortly after sunrise on Christmas Day - around ten o'clock.
The Celtic church founded several places of worship on Arran. The original church in Lamlash was probably built to avoid the inhabitants having to make the tricky sea crossing to the monastery on Holy Isle for burials. It was replaced in the eighteenth century by a structure in the heart of the village. Interestingly, in front of the church building you can see the ancient cross and font from the old monastery on Holy Isle.
The solid red sandstone structure of the current church, with its impressive tower, was built in the late nineteenth century. The 13th Duke of Hamilton who owned most of the island, paid for the construction. Before you start thinking what a benevolent family these local aristocrats were, just remember that only sixty years before they had cleared many crofting families from the land in order to introduce 'agricultural improvements' for their own profit. In this they were no different from many of the great landowning families in Scotland, of course. The 10th Duke paid half the fares of 86 of his erstwhile tenants to send them hundreds of miles across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada, promising them land when they arrived. Well, there was some land but nowhere near as much as had been promised.
Those 86 people were not alone in their transatlantic exile. Whole villages were expelled and their houses pulled down. As elsewhere in the Highlands and Islands, the impact of these extreme measures was devastating for the Gaelic language and culture of the island. The quiet glens have not always been quiet.
An impressive memorial to the Clearances now stands where the people gathered to listen to the words of their Minister before embarking on the ship which would take them overseas.
Lamlash has its own little harbour, though it is no longer used for regular ferry services.
Across the bay looms Goat Fell, the tallest mountain on Arran, here seen topped with snow.
Below the shadow of Goat Fell and close to the water, sits Brodick Castle, the grand seat of the Dukes of Hamilton. Not the family's only home, of course, but this one does quite nicely.
As we drive further north to the villages of Corrie and Sannox, we leave the urban jungle of Brodick behind. The road hugs the coastline, the raised beach indicating the changes in sea level over the millenia.
The traditional cottages have attracted artists for many years, hardly surprising.
The bays swoop in deep half circles, punctuated by headlands.
Corrie has two harbours one at each end of the bay. These were working harbours, used for loading the sandstone rock quarried from nearby hills. Once, the steamers used to stop off at Corrie, the passengers disembarking perhaps with plans to spend some time on the Corrie Golf Course, founded in 1892.
As we hug the shore we cast our eyes eastward, towards the shadowy Ayrshire coast. You can see its grey shadowy outline on the photo below. An expanse of sky arches above the blue-grey Firth.
To the right you can see how the river flows parallel to the sea, leaving a long spit of sand.
Out in the Firth we can just make out through the mist and low cloud the extinct volcanic cone of Ailsa Craig.
Nearer to the shore is the low island of Pladda, with its lighthouse.
Seals enjoy the shelter of these shores, its waters warmed by the Gulf Stream. We saw their heads bobbing up and gazing around before diving deep below the surface of the waves again.
By the time we reach Kildonan, the sun is out. This is typically Scottish weather: all seasons in one day!
Here is where we turn round. It was Christmas Day, after all. The light was failing and it was time to huddle before the fire at the hotel.
Our next journey will take us down the western coast. So, until then, goodbye.